• Sara Needleman

Communicating Mastery

In response to some queries from our users, we have spent a lot of time internally at JumpRope talking about how schools and districts might best communicate mastery to their various audiences. Sometimes that communication is as simple as a teacher helping a student or parent interpret scores in the student portal. Or school leaders putting together some information on “the new grading system.” It could mean helping the community move away from publishing in the local newspaper the names of students who are on the honor role in favor of celebrating all the students who meet standards. In the end, none of that communication truly is simple. All of it can be highly charged. While JumpRope doesn’t have specific answers for how to tackle each of the above-mentioned scenarios (though we are happy to talk about them with you!), we do have one resounding refrain: Whatever message one person from the building or district is sharing with your audience, do your best to make sure that it is the same message from each and every person. Different messages, as you all know, create confusion -- and worse.

But starting by figuring out the message is like starting your instructional planning process with the activities you would like to do in the classroom. It’s tempting, but it’s not really great practice. Instead, we recommend that you begin with creating the substance that will drive the message. That is, your early conversations (and there should be a lot of these) must tackle your school’s or district’s philosophy on and practices with respect to grading. Once you agree on those practices and the ideas that will guide them, you can shape your message to the public. The ideal is that you emerge with a Faculty Grading Guide (FGG). We talked about providing sample Faculty Grading Guides for you through our help docs or here in the blog, but in the end, we really see the creation of your FGG as a very personal process, one that is potentially sabotaged by sharing products which might lead you to see the product as the goal rather than the conversations inspired by the creation of the product. If you work toward creating a FGG, the many conversations you have internally will eventually become the messages you share with your audiences.

All that said, we don’t want to leave you high and dry if your goal is to engage in these big philosophical conversations. If you are looking for some resources to jump from, check out one of Jesse’s recent additions to our Knowledge Base. Another excellent resource to help you move along in this journey toward school- or district-self discovery is our Implementation Benchmarks (see here and here). In particular, I would draw your attention to Benchmarks 1 and 4. Benchmark 1 addresses underlying philosophy while Benchmark 4 goes straight to common grading practices.

Where do you see your school or district in the above rubric? Are you ready to export your message or do you need to do some work internally first? Remember, the shape the message will take grows from the conversations you have and the practices that emerge from those conversations. Maybe as this school year opens, you will feel inspired to engage in those discussions. Let us know what magic comes from them!

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